When Cee posted this week’s photo challenge of domes, my thoughts went to this photo I took of the golden domes of Catherine’s Palace outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. It also brought up the conflict I experience when I look at some lithographs I have hanging in our bedroom, purchased at the Peter & Paul Fortress. My daughter had lived and worked in St. Petersburg for a year shortly after perestroika. She invited me to accompany her for a return visit in 2004, and her friend agreed to sponsored us for a visa and then allowed us to stay with her in her apartment. Her friend was a marvelous host, opening up so many opportunities to meet people and experience the culture. My daughter knew the city so we would explore during the day while her friend worked and then we would spend the evening with the family, sometimes attending events. What fun we had communicating because her friend is fluent in English, her daughter knows some German, and my daughter is fluent in German and knows some Russian.
Now the Russian government is our enemy because they committed a hostile act against our democracy by interfering in our election process. Does my desire to display representations of their history and culture make it seem to others that I am complicit in condoning their intellectual and technological aggression? Should I burn and break all these artifacts of this evil “other?” Should I shun my Soviet-born daughter-in-law who is intelligent, loving, beautiful, kind and fun to be with?
No, I won’t. I don’t have a world view that there is a broad “other” who is different than I and thus bad and evil. Yes, the Russian government is a bad player and is an enemy of our country, but I am still going to celebrate the strong and courageous people born on that foreign soil. I will enjoy the brilliant composers, dancers, and artists that the country produced. I will fondly remember and celebrate the beauty of St. Petersburg and remember with fondness all the people I met and encountered. Travel always whets my curiosity about the history and culture of the places I visit so I will continue to read about it and now to also stay knowledgeable about their current political system and the players in Russia and the U.S. who colluded to impact on the outcome of our last election. This helps me to clarify what I value in my own culture and political system, and see more clearly what parts of our culture and political system need to be fixed. And I will celebrate my daughter-in-law, her family, and other friends who have emigrated from that region of the world.
I did a lot of walking in Trinidad and was intrigued by the grandeur of the architecture, indicating the wealth that once was. I have a hard time admiring people with enormous wealth because I believe that in most cases it was made at the expense of someone else – in 1700 and 1800 Cuba it was slaves. It produces a cognitive dissonance because I do admire the beauty and craftsmanship that this wealth can purchase. I am intrigued by the skill that produced the doors within huge doors.
And windows, within windows that are big enough to be really big doors. We were told that the metal cages around the windows were built to keep pirates from breaking in.
The really big windows are functional, allowing maximum air circulation in the tropical climate, with very hot and humid summers. They also give people a place to be, to watch and interact with the people on the street. But that’s another post.
The Great Theater of Havana is one magnificent building. I wasn’t able to take photos of the exterior because of weather but was thrilled with the interior architecture. It houses the Cuban National Ballet and has hosted renowned performers of the arts from around the world.
Sharon and I checked to see if we could see a performance while we were in Havana but it didn’t work out. Our constellation prize was to see the performance hall, but that wasn’t possible either because practice was taking place. I was able to swallow my disappointment as we walked the spiraling staircase to the upper level where the art museum is.
This is a celebration of the intelligence and talent of people to create works of art on a grand scale. I hope we, as a country, will continue to look for ways to make sure all people have an adequate standard of living while at the came time supporting great artists.
The Cubans have a wonderful cultural heritage in their architecture. I took many photos of doors and windows and rooftops and cornices and walls. So many of the doors in Cuba were open and I wondered about the stories of those who entered and exited them.
My inspiration for this post was the blog Norman 2.0 and Norm’s Thursday Doors.
You can read about how we found the wonderful travel company we used and the design of this custom tour at my post Cuba: Traveling on the Edge. You can find information about the travel agency we used with this link: Positive Things and Destinations. I receive no compensation for referrals, I provide the link because we trust the owners and had such a good experience.
Julie and I went on one of our outings down dirt roads this morning. We hit some roads we have never been down and found this interesting little house. It is abandoned and in disrepair but it is evident that a great deal of creativity and love went into building it.
I wish I knew the story behind this home.
I can almost image a very excited family moving into their new house. I can see people working to make the yard attractive – creating a garden for their palace in the country. And most tragically, why was it abandoned with no one being able to take it over.